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Birth of a Military Superpower: Japan

General News
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Soon, vehicles made in Japan will appear on World of Tanks battlefields. From ancient times, this fascinating civilization has driven attention of not only travelers, traders and explorers, but also conquerors. Japanese islands have been home for many famous and fierce warriors. These people have been passing military traditions from generation to generation with honor. And they’ve also used them while designing their armored vehicles.

In a series of historical articles, we will tell you how just within a few decades from a humble agricultural country, Japan has turned into a super power with a mighty army, fleet and air force. We will show the development of Japanese armored forces and introduce the people who were creating them.

Political and economic threats from Europe and USA pushed Japan to aggressive and decisive actions for the sake of preserving independence. Wars against China (1894-1895) and the Russian Empire (1904-1905) have made Japan a strong contender in the region by the start of the First World War (1914-1918).

As you may know, tanks were used for the first time during the First World War. Of course, the new wonder-weapon received a lot of attention from Japan’s military, which tried hard to catch up with the leading countries in the weapon technology race. In really short terms, Japan purchased and tested the British Mk IV and MkA “Whippet”, as well as Renault FT-18 and M21 “Shenilliet”. The modified “Whippet” and the Renault were the basis of the first Japanese tank forces.

The second half of the 1920s was a new period characterized with peaks of radical nationalism and militarism. These conditions favored development of new weaponry, including tanks.

Japan prepared aggressive attacks against other countries in Asia. In order to conquer vast territories, a mechanized army, prepared to go through any severe conditions like endless plains, mountains or jungles, was required. It was obvious that imported vehicles, which were enriched with models of MkC ‘Vickers’, ‘Vickers-6-ton’, ‘Renault’ NC-27, were not enough for such ambitious goals. Moreover, the most military-advanced nations were not willing to share new inventions. It became clear that independent tank production was required.

Within 1920-1930, Japan created 16 original tank models, 7 of which went to serial production. We will tell you more about these vehicles in the next article.